My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
5th SUNDAY OF HOLY AND GREAT LENT:
SAINT MARY OF EGYPT, THE MODEL OF
Troparion of the Saint. Tone 8
In you, O Mother, is preserved undistorted
what was made in the image of God; for
taking up the cross, you followed Christ and
by example taught, that we should overlook
the flesh, since it passes away, and instead
look after the soul, since it is immortal. And
therefore, O devout Mary, your spirit rejoices
we the Angels.
Kontakion Hymn. Tone 4
Having escaped the fog of sin, and having illumined thy heart
With the light of penitence, O glorious one, thou didst come to
Christ and didst offer to Him His immaculate and Holy Mother
as a merciful intercessor. Hence thou hast found remission of
transgressions, and with the Angels thou ever rejoicest.
This corresponds closely to the preceding Sunday: just as the Fourth Sunday is dedicated to Saint John Climacus, THE MODEL OF ASCETICS, so the Fifth Sunday celebrates Saint Mary of Egypt, THE MODEL OF PENITENTS. Like that of Saint John Climacus, her feast has been transferred from the fixed calendar, where she is commemorated on April 1st. Her recounted by Saint Sophronios, Patriarch of Jerusalem — it is read, on Thursday in the Fifth Week — sets before us a true verbal icon OF THE ESSENCE OF REPENTANCE. In her youth, Saint Mary lived in a dissolute and sinful way at Alexandria.
There was a certain Elder in one of the monasteries of Palestine, a priest of holy life and speech, who from childhood had been brought up in monastic ways and customs. This Elder’s name was Zosimas. He had been through the whole course of the ascetic life and in everything he adhered to the rule once given to him by his tutors as regards spiritual labors. He had also added a good deal himself while laboring to subject his flesh to the will of the spirit. And he had not failed in his aim. He was so renowned for his spiritual life that many came to him from neighboring monasteries and some even from afar. While doing all this, he never ceased to study the Divine Scriptures. Whether resting, standing, working, or eating food (if the scraps he nibbled could be called food), he incessantly and constantly had a single aim: always to sing of God, and to practice the teaching of the Divine Scriptures. Father Zosimas used to relate how, as soon as he was taken from his mother’s breast, he was handed over to the monastery where he went through his training as an ascetic till he reached the age of fifty-three. After that, he began to be tormented by the thought that he was perfect in everything and needed no instruction from anyone, saying to himself mentally, "Is there a monk on earth who can be of use to me and show me a kind of asceticism that I have no accomplished? Is there a man to be found in the desert who has surpassed me?"
Thus thought the Elder, when suddenly an Angel appeared to him and said:
"Zosimas, valiantly have you struggled, as far as this is within the power of man, valiantly have you gone through the ascetic course. But there is no man who has attained perfection. Before you, lie unknown struggles, greater, than those you have accomplished. That you may know how many other ways lead to salvation, leave your native land like the renowned Patriarch Abraham and go to the monastery by the River Jordan.
Father Zosimas did as he was told by the Angel. He left the monastery in which he had lived from childhood, and went to the River Jordan. At last, he reached the monastic community to which God had sent him. Having knocked at the door of the monastery, he told the Porter who he was; and the Porter told the Egoumenos (Abbot). On being admitted to the Egoumeno’s (Abbot’s) presence, Father Zosimas made the usual monastic metanoia (prostration) and prayer. Seeing that he was a monk the Egoumenos asked:
"Where do you come from, brother, and why have you come to us, poor old men?"
Father Zosimas repied:
"There is no need to speak about where I have come from, but I have come, father, seeking spiritual profit, for I have heard great things about your skill in leading souls to God."
"Brother," the Egoumenos (Abbot) said to him. "Only God can heal the infirmity of the soul. May He teach you and us His Divine ways and guide us. But as it is the love of Christ that has moved you to visit up poor old men, then stay with us, if that is why you have come. May the Good Shepherd Who laid down His life for our salvation fill us with the grace of the Holy Spirit."
After this, Father Zosimas bowed to the Egoumenos, asked for his prayers and blessing, and stayed in the monastery. There he saw elders proficient both in action and the contemplation of God, aflame in spirit, working for the Lord. They sang incessantly, they stood in prayer all night, work was ever in their hands and psalms on their lips. Never an idle word was heard among them, they knew nothing about acquiring temporal goods or of the cares of life. But they had one desire–to become in body like corpses. Their constant food ws the Logos/Word of God, and they sustained their bodies on bread and water, as much as their love for God allowed them. Seeing this, Father Zosimas was greatly edified and prepared for the struggle that lay before him.
Many says passed and the time drew near when all Christians fast and prepare themselves to worship the Divine Passion and Resurrection of Christ. The monastery gates were kept always locked and only opened when one of the community was sent out on some errand. It was a desert place, not only unvisited by people of the world but even unknown to them.
There was a rule in that monastery which was the reason why God brought Father Zosimas there. At the beginning of the Great Fast the priest celebrated the Divine Liturgy and all partook of the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Christ. After the Divine Liturgy they went to the refectory and would eat a little lenten food.
Then all gathered in church, and after praying earnestly with prostrations, the elders kissed one another and asked forgiveness. And each made a prostration to the Egoumenos (Abbot) and asked his blessing and prayers for the struggle that lay before them. After this, the gates of the monastery were thrown open, and singing, "The Lord is my Light and my Savior; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defender of my life; of whom I be afraid? (Psalm 26:1) and the rest of that psalm, all went out into the desert and crossed the River Jordan. Only one or two brothers were left in the monastery, not to guard the property (for there was nothing to rob), but so as not to leave the church without Divine Service. Each took with him as much as he could or wanted in the wya of food, according to the needs of his body: one would take a little bread, another some figs, another dates or wheat soaked in water. And some took nothing but their own body covered with rags and fed when nature forced them to it on the plants that grew in the desert. (Source: The Great Canon. The Work of Saint Andrew of Crete)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia
The sinner and unworthy servant of God